A young mother who only discovered she had breast cancer after watching Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies has overcome her illness to graduate from Edge Hill University.
Thirty-three-year-old Tracey Dunn has passed her Foundation Degree in Assisting Professional Practice in Acute Care despite battling cancer and bringing up two small children.
She was half-way through the two year course at Edge Hill when she was diagnosed with the most severe form of breast cancer. Yet it was only after watching the popular TV series where doctors are filmed touring the country in an innovative attempt to raise health awareness and de-stigmatise ‘embarrassing’ body parts and medical conditions that she decided to check for lumps.
“Embarrassing Bodies saved my life really,” said Tracey. “I was sitting with my partner and while we were watching the programme he told me I should check myself. That night in the shower I found a lump. At first I thought I was just being paranoid because of what I’d seen on TV but then made an appointment. At my first examination they thought it may have just been a cyst but the biopsy revealed two lumps. I kept thinking to myself I would be fine, these things don’t happen to young people, I even put it down to the fact I had a young baby and it may have been something to do with breast milk. When they told me it was cancer I couldn’t believe it.”
Instead of throwing in the towel with her studies, she decided to continue with the support of her tutors and in between chemotherapy she managed to complete her work. She even gave a presentation to her classmates a week after her mastectomy.
She said: “I’m so glad I decided to continue with my studies because it took my mind of everything that was happening. Even having the kids around made me feel more motivated to get out of bed. They didn’t know I was ill, I told them I’d fallen over and needed special medicine to make the scar heal but it would mean my hair would fall out. My little boy Luke helped to shave my head and was made up I had a skinhead like him. Even my little girl wanted one, which made me laugh. It just made everything a bit easier to deal with.
“And the support I received from the University was fantastic, especially Angela Whelan who gave me so much help. She was constantly in contact with me and would extend deadlines if needed. She really encouraged and inspired me.”
Tracey enjoyed her time at Edge Hill so much she has decided to enroll on the Mental Health degree programme and starts in September.
She said: “I’ve worked on the wards at Whiston for the last nine years and I just knew I needed a change, especially after everything that had happened I wanted to get away from hospitals. Mental health, addictions and domestic violence are all issues that really fascinate me and so I’ve decided to come back as a full-time student here. I’m a bit nervous but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. After everything that’s happened to me.
“I’m not frightened by it though, what’s the worst that can happen. And that’s what I’d tell other people too who are thinking about wanting to learn but think they are too old or have other issues. If I was able to do my course while facing all these challenges in my life then other people can too. Edge Hill University is a fantastic place to study and I’d recommend it to anyone.”